Suffolk farming future is positive, straw poll reveals

AROUND three quarters of rural professionals believe the future is positive for Suffolk farmers, and commodity prices will continue to rise, according to a small survey conducted at an annual seminar last week.

Food prices and the importance of water were the main issues aired by Savills’ Neil Meadows and Michael Horton at the company’s seminar for rural professionals at the Holiday Inn in Ipswich on Thursday.

Among those taking part were legal and accountancy firms and a few rural bank managers.

A survey of views found that 73% thought the future was positive for their rural clients, while 71% thought Common Agricultural Policy subsidy payments should continue with only 21% believing farmers would be better off left to the open market.

Mr Horton stressed the importance of water and linked this with comments from the agency team on how the market perceives irrigated land values.

Sixty per cent of those surveyed believed that they expect to pay more for water in future and 73% believed food would be more expensive in a year’s time.

Mark Russell, head of Savills Ipswich rural team, said: “It may seem odd to talk about water conservation in a year when there has been an abundance rather than a shortage, but only a year ago the picture was very different.

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“Given the generally held view that our climate is becoming more volatile, management of this scarce resource will become more important, particularly a move from summer abstraction to water storage. Were you aware that 51% of water used for irrigation is used here in East Anglia?

“Our annual seminars are designed to bring professionals together and provide them with a focused review of commodity and input prices which feed through to all of us in food prices on the shop shelves.

“We also cover the land market which has continued to be resilient during the double dip recession and which has been viewed as a safe haven for investors.

“As the whole economy starts to show signs of emerging from the doldrums, this market will be one to watch very carefully.

“If history is anything to go by, we will now see a sustained period of slow land value price variation. Having experienced the explosion of the last few years this will be interesting to adjust to with land managers’ focus changing back from capital value growth across to driving income potential from every bit of the land available to us.

“Overall, the outlook of the rural professionals at the seminar was positive with 73% of them believing wheat prices will be above �190 per tonne this time next year.”